A New York State United Teachers spokesman confirmed Thursday that the union umbrella organization is involved with a protest planned for Tuesday afternoon at the Riverhead Charter School in Calverton.
The rally comes about a month after Kasey Wehrheim, who was the union president at the Riverhead Charter School was fired after an egg-allergy incident involving a student.
“Yes, NYSUT is involved in a rally scheduled for Tuesday,” Peter Verdon of NYSUT said in an email of the rally, which had been publicized on Facebook by an unaffiliated group called Stronger NYSUT. “We will have more to say shortly.”
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Principal and executive director Ray Ankrum and teacher Jessica Farmer said Wednesday that no representatives from NYSUT had contacted the school or teachers — all union members themselves — about the protest.
Ms. Farmer and other teachers emailed a letter addressed to NYSUT — and shared with local media — earlier this week, stating their opposition to the the rally. (See the letter below.)
Ms. Wehrheim, a school employee since 2008, says she will soon be filing a complaint against the school with the state Public Employment Relations Board. That would come on the heels of two other complaints filed with the board in February and March, alleging union-busting-type practices at the school.
Lawyers for the school had told the News-Review that Ms. Wehrheim’s actions put a child’s health and safety at risk and were unacceptable, and adamantly denied that her termination had anything to do with her status as union leader.
Below is the complete letter:
Recent posts to various social media outlets have enlightened us (the current members of the Riverhead Charter School Employees’ Association) to the fact that a NYSUT-sponsored rally for educators and children is being planned for June 10, 2014 at our school. We, as current staff members at Riverhead Charter School (RCS), feel it imperative to take a stand against this protest, as it further detracts from the responsibility that we have as educators.
As educators, we work tirelessly to provide the best education for our students, each and every day. This includes ensuring they feel safe, respected, and nurtured while under our care. Your rally is expected to take place at RCS during dismissal and continue into the evening hours, during which time we have a movie night planned for our students and their families. The timing of this event is completely irresponsible, as it will likely create a tense, unsafe environment for our students and their families.
It is public knowledge that there have been two attempts made to disassociate from NYSUT. Your sponsorship of this event further solidifies our belief in this decision. It is again evident that NYSUT is not concerned with the current members of its own collective bargaining unit, as we were never consulted regarding any type of rally.
Moreover, your organization has made no attempt to contact us regarding the negotiations process, despite the fact that our current contract expires in less than thirty days.
We realize that disassociation may not be the most popular move, as NYSUT is strong amongst public school districts on Long Island. However, we are not a district school, we are a charter school. We stand firm behind this decision, as we feel that NYSUT should not be the shield for underperforming staff members, with no regard to the welfare of its current members, or the students we serve. Our goal is not to be popular, but to make an impact in the lives of our students.
In closing, we, the undersigned, go on record to state that we do not support this upcoming rally, nor any other public forum that may cause further negativity towards or within the Riverhead Charter School community.
28 Members of Riverhead Charter School Employees’ Association